Dueling boycotts? Airbnb removes occupied West Bank settlement listings, Israel hits back

A mosque minaret in East Jerusalem and the Palestinian city of Jabal al Baba in the occupied West Bank is seen on Nov. 17 2018

"We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians", Airbnb said on its website.

The website did not say when the listings in West Bank settlements would be removed.

Airbnb has faced years of criticism from Palestinians for hosting settlement listings that failed to mention the property was located on land claimed by the Palestinians.

Waleed Assraf, head of a Palestinian anti-settlement group run by the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation, welcomed Airbnb's decision.

As of Monday afternoon, listings within settlements still appear to be up on the site.

Airbnb at the time said the US-based firm "respects the laws in force where it operates and investigates the concerns raised on the subject of some listings".

The short-term home rental company said in a press release that it had previously allowed the listings - around 200 - as USA law permitted Airbnb to operate in the disputed territory, but that it had "wrestled with this issue and we have struggled to come up with the right approach".

Human Rights Watch praised the decision, calling it a "breakthrough".

"This is the right outcome". The group said its report would be released on Tuesday morning. And Gilad Erdan, the minister of strategic affairs, is encouraging people affected by the new policy to file lawsuits against Airbnb.

However, he said the company should have followed "the position of global law that Israel is the occupying power and that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute war crimes". "Israeli settlements are not just an obstacle to peace but defy the very definition of peace", Erekat said in a statement. He also vowed to complain to senior officials in the United States and ask them to check if Airbnb's move violates laws against boycotting Israel that "exist in over 25 states".

Now that Airbnb, a company valued at $31 billion in 2017, has chose to ban rentals in the area, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan has called on former hosts on the platform to sue the company in accordance with the country's laws banning boycotts.

Levin has stated that the Ministry of Tourism is taking action to "limit the company's activity throughout the country".

Chris Doyle director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu) said that other companies doing business in the settlements should take note. He also said he would take up the matter with U.S. officials to discuss whether the decision violated anti-boycott legislation that exists in 25 states.

"The decision does an injustice to Israelis living in [the West Bank], constitutes a surrender to extremists and is a mistake that distances peace", Oded Revivi said in a statement.

Approximately 600,000 Israelis lived in more than 200 settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem at the end of 2016, Israeli human rights group Btselem reported.

"Such businesses depend on and contribute to Israel's unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources, and facilitate the functioning and growth of settlements".

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